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I am looking for someone to identify this bug: location india. It flew from my window in my room, killed it by spraying cockroach killer spray, it could fly like cockroach.
That is a mole cricket. Family Gryllotalpidae. They generally live underground, but as you noticed, they can fly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mole_cricket
Cockroaches Have Neighborhoods, Too
Research finds similarities between New York City's bugs and humans.
Move over, Sharks and Jets. New Yawk's next turf rumble could pit roach against roach.
According to an ongoing study called the National Cockroach Project, the roaches of three NYC neighborhoods—the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and Roosevelt Island—are genetically distinct. Like many of the city's humans, each group tends to stay in its own neighborhood. And, since American cockroaches originated overseas, these urban insects can also claim immigrants as ancestors.
To find out more about what's bugging the Big Apple, we sat down with the project's lead scientist: Mark Stoeckle, an infectious-disease specialist and senior research associate at the Rockefeller University's Program for the Human Environment.
How did the National Cockroach Project come about?
We'd been working with high-school students using bar coding, which is a simple way of identifying species by DNA. And one of the projects a couple of years ago was a sort of CSI for the home—students went around and collected everything they could find that might have DNA in it. When we had that tested, one of the things that turned up was a cockroach that looked genetically distinct.
We thought we might have a new species, but when we had it looked at in the American Museum of Natural History, they said, "No, that's a regular American cockroach." So [to understand why it seemed genetically distinct] we needed a lot more specimens.
The idea became to involve students and other citizen scientists to help us collect cockroaches. There hadn't been a lot of work done on them, because they're pests. So this [is an opportunity] to learn about something that lives in cities, where most of us live.
So how does it work—students and other citizen scientists collect cockroaches and send them to you?
Yes. At first we weren't sure if anyone would actually send in a cockroach—it's certainly an unusual request—and we weren't sure what condition it would arrive in. Cockroaches are icky, but they're not dangerous like, say, ticks, which can actually carry blood-borne diseases.
You're saying roaches don't deserve the bad rap they get?
I mean, I don't like seeing them crawling across my floor. They can track things in—they're sort of like houseflies in that way. And they may contribute to allergies, particularly asthma the dust from cockroach shells may be an issue. But they don't carry specific diseases.
How many samples have you received so far, and from where?
We've gotten about 200 specimens, either mailed in or [hand-delivered]. Most are from the U.S., from New York City. We've had better luck getting New Yorkers to pick up cockroaches than we've had elsewhere.
But we also have specimens from Australia and Spain. Two high-school students in Spain saw our project on the Web and sent them in. It's really wonderful that people we have no direct connection to are interested and willing to contribute.
How many species of roaches are there in the world?
More than 4,000. Most live out in the wild. A few of them have adapted—or already were adapted—to a human environment. The common ones that are considered pests in the United States are the American cockroach (the large, water-bug type) and the German cockroach (the smaller one more common in apartments or households). Those are the two main ones. There's also the smokybrown cockroach and the brown-banded cockroach.
So how are roaches like New Yorkers?
Well, they're definitely immigrants. We know these are tropical species that are thought to have come from Africa, though there's no definite proof of that. They require a very warm, moist environment. And we've made a nice home for them in cities, because we have underground tunnels and sewers where they can live year-round. In the summer they come up above ground, and that's when we usually see them. But they've only been here as long as we've had an underground environment that's congenial for them.
So they're all immigrants and like New Yorkers in that way. The other way—the biggest finding of the study—is that there are four distinct genetic types of cockroaches within this species [the American cockroach]. Evolutionarily these genetic types are separated by a million or two million years. So they were probably living in different parts of the world. We brought them here.
They do interbreed, so we don't think they're separate species. But on the other hand, in the New York City neighborhoods where we've looked in detail—the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and Roosevelt Island—the genetic types are quite different. So they must be staying close to home.
The diversity was a surprise to us, and the fact that they're not just all mixed together—it's not a random assortment. So they must be staying close to home, and they have their own neighborhoods.
Do the genetic differences in neighborhood roaches manifest themselves in terms of behavior, appearance, longevity? What about vulnerability to pesticides?
It's possible. We just haven't looked at that. Cockroaches look all the same to us, but presumably they can tell each other apart. They are social insects, like ants. They don't have as elaborate a society as ants. But they do definitely live in groups.
For our citizen-science project we're probably not going to be studying pesticide resistance. But [we've created an] opening for someone to look at that.
What would happen if you took an Upper West Side roach and relocated it to, say, the Lower East Side?
Ha, I don't know. Maybe we can do some tracking experiments—put tiny radio collars, very little cameras on them. It's a fun question to think about and guess what might happen.
What can we learn from this project?
There's a lot more diversity going on around us than we might realize. We think of an urban environment as a boring environment for wildlife. But in fact, at least with this one species, there's a lot going on there. That's one part of it.
The other part is that they're all immigrants, like all New Yorkers—they've come here from different parts of the world.
So what do you do if you see a roach in your apartment?
I step on it. And I carry a plastic bag with me so I can pick it up and stick it in the freezer. I have a freezer in my apartment with a lot of cockroaches in it.
Consciousness in a Cockroach
To Nicholas Strausfeld, a tiny brain is a beautiful thing. Over his 35-year career, the neurobiologist at the University of Arizona at Tucson has probed the minute brain structures of cockroaches, water bugs, velvet worms, brine shrimp, and dozens of other invertebrates. Using microscopes, tweezers, and hand-built electronics, he and his graduate students tease apart — ever so gently — the cell-by-cell workings of brain structures the size of several grains of salt. From this tedious analysis Strausfeld concludes that insects possess "the most sophisticated brains on this planet."
Strausfeld and his students are not alone in their devotion. Bruno van Swinderen, a researcher at the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) in San Diego, finds hints of higher cognitive functions in insects — clues to what one scientific journal called "the remote roots of consciousness."
"Many people would pooh-pooh the notion of insects having brains that are in any way comparable to those of primates," Strausfeld adds. "But one has to think of the principles underlying how you put a brain together, and those principles are likely to be universal."
The findings are controversial. "The evidence that I've seen so far has not convinced me," says Gilles Laurent, a neuroscientist at Caltech. But some researchers are considering possibilities that would shock most lay observers. "We have literally no idea at what level of brain complexity consciousness stops," says Christof Koch , another Caltech neuroscientist. "Most people say, ɿor heaven's sake, a bug isn't conscious.' But how do we know? We're not sure anymore. I don't kill bugs needlessly anymore."
Heinrich Reichert of the University of Basel in Switzerland has become more and more interested in "the relatedness of all brains." Reichert's own studies of the brain's origin lead to a little-known ancestor, a humble creature called Urbilateria, which wriggled and swam nearly a billion years ago. The granddaddy of all bilaterally symmetrical animals, Urbilateria is the forebear of spiders, snails, insects, amphibians, fish, worms, birds, reptiles, mammals, crabs, clams — and yes, humans.
There is, of course, good reason to view insect brains as primitive — at least quantitatively. Humans possess 100,000,000,000 brain cells. A cockroach has nearly 1,000,000 brain cells a fruit fly, only 250,000. Still, insects exercise impressive information management: They pack neurons into their brains 10 times more densely than mammals do. They also use each brain cell more flexibly than mammals. Several far-flung tendrils of a single neuron can each act independently — boosting computing power without increasing the number of cells. Somehow that circuitry allows a honeybee, with barely a million neurons on board, to meander six miles from its hive, find food, and make a beeline directly home. Few humans could do the same even with a map and a compass.
On the surface, the brains of insects and mammals look nothing alike. Only from studies of cell-by-cell connections does the astounding similarity emerge. One afternoon Christopher Theall, one of Strausfeld's Ph.D. students, shows me his own experimental setup for tapping into a portion of the cockroach brain known as the mushroom body. This mushroom-shaped brain structure is thought to be analogous to the mammalian hippocampus, a brain component involved in forming memories of places.
"What we're trying to do," says Theall, as we enter a cramped laboratory, "is scale down the techniques that have been used in rat and primate brains — scale them down to a brain that's a thousandth the size."
Theall's experimental apparatus rests on a table that floats on vibration-absorbing pressurized air. Even a cart rattling in the hallway outside could undermine the experiment. Because Theall needs to record nerve impulses amounting to just one ^1 /10,0000 of a volt, the table is enclosed in a cage that blocks electromagnetic interference from the room's lights. Working under a microscope with tweezers, steady hands, and held breath, Theall fashions copper wire only twice the diameter of a red blood cell into electrodes that he will insert into the cockroach's brain.
"They're fragile," he says. "Even a breeze from a door opening can ruin a couple hours of work."
After 20 hours of prep, Theall is ready to do the experiment. Twisting a knob while gazing into the microscope, he sinks the electrode into the roach's brain until it rests in one of the mushroom bodies. During the experiment, Theall will train this cockroach to earn a reward: If the insect points its antenna toward certain landmarks, it will receive thrilling puffs of peanut-butter odor. Theall wants to eavesdrop on neurons to determine how they contribute to learning the location of those landmarks.
The final step of the experiment — dissection of the mushroom body — allows Theall to see the two or three cells he has monitored. Because the cells have absorbed copper released from the electrode, he can tell them apart from the 200,000 other brain cells in the mushroom body. Theall then traces the structure of each cell using pen, paper, and a light box. It is like drawing a gnarled oak tree down to the last twig, and reconstructing a single cell can take two days. Theall, a typical student in Strausfeld's lab, will perform hundreds of experiments like these before his Ph.D. is complete.
Theall and Strausfeld never know which of the tens of thousands of cells they're going to hit when they tap into a roach's mushroom body. By repeating the experiment over and over, however, they are assembling a picture of what types of cells exist, how those cells function during tasks of place memory, and what kinds of connections they form with other cells. Cell by cell, they hope to piece together the structure's circuitry.
During a chat in his office, Strausfeld sketches a mushroom body, pointing out several parallels to the hippocampus, the brain center devoted to memory and place location in mammals. The base consists of thousands of parallel nerve fibers running together like the grain in a piece of wood. Further up from the base, the fibers send out connections in loops that look like jug handles on a freeway this is the shape that has earned this part of the brain the name "mushroom body." The connections rejoin the fibers higher up, near the top. Strausfeld suspects these looping pathways bring together related pieces of information, like the sights and smells of various landmarks that a roach encounters, one after another, as it travels to and from its home.
"The geometry of the structure," he says, "is so strangely reminiscent of the [human] hippocampus." Strausfeld and others are looking for clues as to whether the similarities result from a deep and ancient kinship or simply from analogous solutions that evolved independently to aid survival.
In his underground laboratory at the Neurosciences Institute, van Swinderen is observing a fly suspended in what amounts to a miniature IMAX theater. The setup is designed to monitor the focus of attention in a fly's brain. An LED screen wraps around the fly, displaying a sequence of flashing objects in front of its eyes, two objects at a time. Right now, it's an X and a square. The X is flickering 12 times per second and the square 15 times per second.
"You can use these flickers," van Swinderen tells me, "to extract what the fly is attending to. At the moment," he says, "it's paying attention to the X."
Van Swinderen has inserted an electrode into the fly's brain to monitor its neural activity. The jagged brain waves percolating through the electrode scroll across a computer screen. Buried deep in the jumble of jagged peaks are two tiny signals: one wave rising and falling 12 times per second and another rising and falling 15 times per second. Those two waves are emanating from thousands of brain cells responding to the two flickering objects. The greater the number of cells firing in unison to a given object, the higher the corresponding wave. By noting which wave is higher, van Swinderen can tell which target the fly is directing more attention to.
Van Swinderen prefers to call it "salience" rather than "attention," because he does not want to imply that flies are conscious. But whatever that perceptual focus is called, finding it in a fly has huge implications for understanding the roots of consciousness in humans. Every second we are flooded by sensory information from our eyes, ears, nose, and every inch of our skin. The roving spotlight of attention — our mind's eye — determines which tiny fraction of this influx we actually admit into our consciousness and, just possibly, file away as memory.
Van Swinderen often records brain waves simultaneously from three locations in a large insect brain region called the medial protocerebrum. At first glance, the jumbled waves from those areas might seem as varied as the sounds of Mozart, the Sex Pistols, and Tuvan throat singing. But as long as the fly is alert and attending to something, there exists within that jumble a chorus of neurons chiming the same wave pattern in concert across all three areas. That wave pattern represents the thing the fly is attending to, and as its attention shifts from one thing to another, the wave pattern also changes. Van Swinderen can detect the chorus because he has carefully designed his experiment with its little IMAX theater to determine what the fly will attend to. It is a beautiful illustration of attention: every neuron singing the same song — the song of the square.
"Attention," says van Swinderen, "is a whole-brain phenomenon. A thing is not purely visual, not purely olfactory. It's a binding together of different parts that for us signify one thing. Why couldn't the fly's mechanism [of attention] be directed to a succession of its memories?" he asks. "That, to me, is just a short hop, skip, and a jump away from what might be consciousness." The difference between the memories of a fly and a human might be a matter of degree. The human can store a lot more memories and can therefore maintain a more sophisticated personal narrative of his past and present. But van Swinderen believes "it could be exactly the same mechanism in a fly and a human." Although there is still no evidence to decide either way, the result could be consciousness.
"Probably what consciousness requires," says Koch of Caltech, "is a sufficiently complicated system with massive feedback. Insects have that. If you look at the mushroom bodies, they're massively parallel and have feedback."
Chemical clues confirm that at least some fundamental brain processes are the same in humans and insects. Van Swinderen and Rozi Andretic , a neuroscientist at NSI, have found that mutant flies producing too little of the neurotransmitter dopamine have impaired salience responses. Feeding the mutant flies methamphetamine — a chemical related to drugs used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder — relieves the dopamine shortage and normalizes the flies' attention. But give meth to a normal fly and it cannot attend as well. "Similar mechanisms are present in vertebrates and flies," Andretic told me. "You need optimal concentrations of dopamine, and if you have too little or too much, you will be impaired." In both humans and flies, dopamine-releasing cells may help coordinate distant brain regions involved in the phenomenon of attention.
When you consider that neurons themselves are strikingly similar across the animal kingdom, it all begins to make sense. "You have the same basic building blocks for vertebrates and invertebrates," says Strausfeld, "and there are certain ways you can put these building blocks together [into brains]." So when it came to building a brain center like the hippocampus that can recognize places, there might have been only one way to wire those quirky neurons together to do the job — and evolution arrived at that same solution multiple times independently, just as the genetic instructions for wings evolved multiple times in distinct lineages.
The more startling possibility is that the brain might have evolved only once in the history of life. Distant cousins — cockroaches and humans — could have inherited the basic blueprint from a common ancestor, Urbilateria, the last common forebear of all bilaterally symmetrical animals. No fossils of this creature are known to survive, but by estimating how long it took for DNA sequences to diverge between flies and mice, geneticists estimate that Urbilateria lived 600 million to 1 billion years ago.
By analogy to marine invertebrates today, some scientists believe that Urbilateria burrowed on the sea bottom as an adult and swam as a larva, with simple eyes like those in many living marine larvae.
Clues to Urbilateria's brain plan come from studying the embryonic development of creatures alive today. In both mouse and fruit fly embryos, Detlev Arendt, an evolutionary biologist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, has found that cells involved in forming the brain and nerve cord divide into three columns of cells. At least some of the genes that govern the column formation are the same in flies and mice. "This pattern is so specific," says Arendt, "that clearly the last common ancestor must have had these three columns."
Heinrich Reichert of the University of Basel has turned up another striking similarity. During embryonic growth, a gene that is similar in both flies and mice (and, by implication, humans) triggers the brain to divide into front, middle, and rear segments. Mice lacking the gene develop severe brain abnormalities. But swapping the fly version of the gene into these mutant mice corrects most of those abnormalities. "It reveals," says Reichert, "a deep relatedness in the brains of flies and fish and mice and men that certainly was not expected by just looking at the superficial anatomy."
Of course, these genes act early, while the embryo is primitive. So Urbilateria could have possessed them and still have had almost no brain. The ultimate answer will come from identifying and comparing dozens more insect and mammal genes. Of particular interest are those involved in forming complex structures that play similar roles, like mushroom bodies and the hippocampus.
"The million-dollar question," Strausfeld says, "would be whether the genes involved in the development of these structures are shared between mouse and fly. That would, of course, be thrilling."
6 Types of Texas Bugs Most People Should Avoid
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Texas has a deserved reputation as a rugged state, and it certainly has its fair share of wildlife that it's best to avoid when possible. Texas also scores high in the creepy critter department, with countless varieties of insects and spiders choosing to live in the Lone Star State alongside its human population. They range from harmless to potentially dangerous to people or pets, but it should be noted that most play an important role in the areas ecology, even if few of us would want to share our sleeping bags with one of them. Let's take a look at some of the multi-legged creatures that make their homes in and near ours.
These bugs are such a part of Houston life in particular, that they deserve that exclamation point. There are several varieties, including the American Cockroach and German Cockroach, and they're ideal habitat is the Texas Gulf Coast. Possibly much more alarming to the average person, is that cockroaches like to live around the same types of stuff we do, and our homes provide all the food, water, and shelter that cockroaches need in order to thrive. While no roaches in the Houston area pack a venomous bite (thankfully), cockroaches can spread diseases and their populations can explode overnight. Some people are also allergic to roaches, adding to a long list of why it's not a great idea to live around these unpleasant home invaders.
Fear of spiders is fairly common across the world, but most arachnids are a lot more helpful than harmful, playing a major role in controlling pest populations. That said, their are several types of spiders in Texas that can be harmful to us, and they are well worth keeping an eye out for. While all spiders have venom, only two species in the state are dangerous, and those are the from the recluse and widow families.
There are several different types of recluse spiders, but the one most Texans are familiar with is the dreaded brown recluse. Although they're tiny, the bite from a "fiddleback" as they're also known, can itch or sting, but it'll often be followed by intense pain, fever, and chills, before erupting into an ulcerating lesion. Having seen photos of the resulting wounds caused by their bite, I feel certain no one wants to be bitten by a brown recluse spider.
The second type of dangerous spider which makes its home here are several species of widow spiders including the southern black widow. They are fairly small at around one and a half inches, and the female southern black widow usually has a distinctive hourglass marking on its back. The bite of a black widow is extremely unpleasant and includes symptoms such as severe muscle cramps, spasms, intense pain, and tachycardia, although it's generally not fatal to a healthy adult.
Recluse and widow spiders are worth looking out for, and don't make nice cuddle buddies, so it's a good idea to keep an eye out for them.
Texas is home to many types of scorpions, and in Houston the most commonly encountered species is the striped bark scorpion. They're commonly found under rocks and other ground cover, and occasionally into human dwellings. Although usually not deadly, their sting isn't anything anyone wants to endure, because it causes reactions ranging from intense localized pain to abdominal cramps and difficulty breathing. Many Texans grew up being taught to shake out their boots before putting them on, and critters like the striped bark scorpion are a good reason to observe that practice.
Texas is home to bees, most notably honey and bumblebees, which can both sting humans. Neither is extremely aggressive to people, and stings are generally a last line of defense, particularly with honeybees which can die after stinging a person or animal. Both types of bees dole out a painful sting which will typically swell for a few hours, but they pose a large risk to those who are highly allergic to them.
South Texas has plenty of different wasp species, including several different kinds of paper wasps, mud daubers, and the dreaded yellow jacket. Most wasps can sting, but yellow jackets have a particularly unpleasant reputation for aggression, and are best to avoid when possible. Wasp stings hurt pretty badly, but unless a person is stung multiple times or is allergic to their venom, the stings generally aren't going to cause more than pain and swelling. Still, who needs that in their lives? It's best to just avoid wasps and bees whenever possible.
Ants are everywhere in Texas, with over 200 species native to the state, and Houston has its fair share of the stinging creatures. These include carpenter ants, leaf cutter ants, fire ants, and pharaoh ants, which are often called "sugar ants" around here. Anyone who has ever experienced walking into a fire ant bed, and having hundreds of the angry creatures scurrying up their leg realizes they aren't a lot of fun to get stung by. Generally, ant stings are more painful and irritating than dangerous, but like other insect stings, some people can have a severe and life threatening allergic reaction to them. Recently Houston has become the home to an invasive species called Rasberry Crazy Ants, which are named after the exterminator who discovered their populations were exploding here. Houston attracts people from all over the country and world, and it seems to be attracting new species of insect life too.
While some people would have out of towners believe that Houston has mosquitos the size of small birds, providing anecdotes of the maligned insects flying off with small children, but there really isn't any need to exaggerate the vile nature of mosquitos. Quite bluntly, mosquitos suck. And it's blood they're sucking, so rather than just defensively stinging a person like a wasp or bee might, mosquitos are making a meal from us. Worse still, mosquitos are some of the most prolific carriers of disease in history, spreading fun stuff like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile virus among others. They're also responsible for spreading heart worms to dogs and cats, not even sparing the animals we tend to keep as pets. Cockroaches may be disgusting and reviled, but mosquitos have spread misery to humans and other mammals throughout history. Most people living in South Texas who spend much time outside seem to either bathe in bug repellent, or hope the mosquito control trucks drive through their neighborhoods regularly. Where's Dale Gribble when we need him?
Anyone who has spent much time in Texas or the Houston area understands that certain aspects of life here are inevitable. Like hot summers and erratic weather patterns, Texas has bugs, and lots of them. Learning to deal with the ones that are merely irritating, and avoiding those that can be dangerous is just part of life in this part of the country.
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I Am Officially in Love With Cockroaches
In the late 1970s, entomologist Coby Schal was in the rainforests of Costa Rica, watching a wasp. Every few minutes, the wasp would soar up into the canopy and snatch a helpless insect, then buzz back down and bury its prey in a nest below ground. After watching this sequence unfold numerous times, Schal decided to dig up the lair to see what the wasp was up to. What he discovered was a miniature house of horrors.
“Every single cell within the nest was filled with cockroaches,” said Schal, a professor of entomology at North Carolina State University.
Each roach had been stung, paralyzed, and jailed in subterranean burrows filled with other roaches, like a particularly disgusting box of See’s chocolates. Those chambers also contained a single wasp egg, which would eventually hatch and devour the cockroaches in its larder before emerging from the ground to seek its own prey.
Being accustomed to the monstrosities of nature, Schal wasn’t too phased by the whole zombifying, eating-alive routine. What interested him far more about the subterranean death dungeon was the fact that he’d never seen any of these roach species before.
So he bagged the bugs up—over 20 different kinds in all—and sent them off to two of the late, great cockroach experts, Louis Roth and Frank Fisk. If anyone in the world knew what these roaches were, it’d be these guys.
But Roth and Fisk were just as clueless as Schal. Whatever these species were, they did not belong to the approximately 5,000 or so species of cockroaches known to science. And, though the story of the wasp finally found its way into publication in 2010, those species remain undescribed to this day, says Schal.
We’re talking about more than 20 kinds of cockroaches discovered one day in a wasp’s lair in Costa Rica. Animals never before seen by scientists and, perhaps, never seen since. Such is the almost inconceivable state of cockroach biodiversity.
One of the largest of all cockroach genuses, Megaloblatta. (Coby Schal)
I tell you this because I’ve been reading this book, Cockroaches: Ecology, Behavior and Natural History, and I don’t think there’s a more misunderstood group of animals out there. We think of cockroaches as dirty, disease-spreading scavengers that haunt our kitchens and scurry around our sewers, but this reputation is based almost entirely off of the dozen or so species that make a living off our scraps. All told, these human-loving cockroaches account for less than half of one percent of the cockroach species on Earth. We're talking 0.5 percent.*
But guys, I’m here to tell you that the rest of the roaches—the ones you’ve never seen, the ones you’ve never even heard of—represent some of the most bewildering diversity on planet Earth.
The giant burrowing cockroaches of Australia can grow more than three inches long and, when they’re above ground, are often mistaken for small tortoises. On the other end of the spectrum, the itty-bittiest cockroaches are less than one-third the size of the tortoise roaches' feces.
In fact, cockroaches such as Attaphila fungicola are so small, they hide out in the fungal gardens cultivated by leaf-cutter ants. When this speck of a species wants to expand its territory, it simply hitches a ride on any outgoing winged ants, such as the queens-in-waiting. It’s an intimate relationship the roach will be present during the queen’s mating flight, and also when she goes house-hunting for a site upon which to build the new colony. Everywhere the queen goes, the roach will follow, like an antennae-wielding guardian angel. Or a living fanny pack.
Size is only the tip of the roachberg. Cockroaches also come in a seemingly endless array of shapes and colors. There are cockroaches with little devil horns used for flipping rival males onto their backs and guarding the entrance to a burrow. There are high-stepping cockroaches (Cardacopsis shelfordi) that look for all the world like ants, right down to the way they run.
The genus Prosoplecta has evolved to have the body shape and red and black colorations of ladybugs to trick birds into thinking they’re bad news. Then there are cockroaches who don’t need to feign danger, because they have chemical weapons of their own. Each is a brilliant metallic shade of orange, red, or yellow, an aposematic warning flag that proclaims: “I taste like absolute death.”
Cockroaches of the genus Prospecta mimic the warning colorations of the ladybug. (George Beccaloni, from Cockroach Species File Online)
There are cockroaches that look so much like lightning bugs, early experts kept them in dark rooms expecting to see their butts light up. Alas, they learned that these roaches are only pretenders at bioluminescence.
Does that disappoint you? I don’t want to disappoint you. So let’s talk about a cockroach that does have the goods. The glowspot cockroach, Lucihormetica fenestrata, is a nocturnal species that lives in the bromeliads of the Brazilian rainforest. The males have two bumps on their faces that burn like lanterns in the night, making them look like little Jawas from Star Wars. These glowing “headlights” are thought to play some role in wooing the lady cockroaches.
There are species that spend their lives wedged deep under bark or in the cracks of boulders and are so flat as to resemble a pancake. When enemy ants come a-marching, these roaches flatten even further and cling to whatever they’re standing on so tightly that there’s literally nothing for the ants to grab onto. These roaches are their own panic room.
Some cockroaches like the genus Colapteroblatta have pill-shaped bodies, the better for boring into logs. Others, like North America’s very own Cryptocercus, are built for tunneling into rotting logs and come equipped with shovel-shaped heads and articulated leg spikes for leverage.*
Desert dwelling cockroaches like the Iranian Leiopteroblatta monodi look a bit like Cousin Itt. You’d think species that have to cope with extreme heat would want less hair, but this fuzz actually creates a boundary layer of air that insulates the cockroaches from the intense heat of their surroundings. This hairy microclimate also cuts down on the moisture lost while exhaling.
Some of my favorite cockroaches, the Perisphaeriinae, look like pillbugs. (Some even come in bright red and I challenge you not to accept them as adorable.) When something wicked this way comes, these species do the exact opposite of the pancake roaches: they roll up into tiny, impenetrable balls. Not only does this pose protect the insect from the mandibles of ants and other predators, but it seems to provide structural support, giving the roach extra strength to prevent death by crushing.
Delightfully diverse cockroaches demonstrate three defensive strategies. Clockwise from top: anti-ant chemical warfare, rolling into a ball, and flattening. (From Cockroaches: Ecology, Behavior and Natural History, courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Press)
It gets better. Perisphaeriinae are some of the many, many cockroaches who provide parental care for their young. If anything threatens Momma Perisphaerus and her brood, she can roll up and collect all her nymphs inside her many-legged fortress. There are even snacks to be had! Female roaches in this genus have “four distinct orifices” on their underside that the nymphs can insert their straw-like mouthparts into and collect some sort of nourishing bodily secretion. (We don’t know if the liquid is glandular or blood-based, or what, just that the nymphs’ mouthparts are precisely the same size as the holes.)
If the idea of cockroach “milk” sounds familiar, it’s probably because every website on the Internet was hailing the substance as the next superfood just a few weeks ago. This was mostly an exercise in clickbait, since the scientific paper in question had basically nothing to do with human nutrition—as insect expert Joe Ballenger pointed out on the Ask An Entomologist blog.
“Insects should definitely play a bigger role in food production,” says Ballenger, who works as an entomologist in the agricultural sector. “But I think cockroaches in particular are problematic because of potential allergy issues.” But hey, the whole milk hullabaloo got people talking about roaches, and Ballenger considers that a win.
“For me, personally, I'm fascinated by their social interactions,” he adds. “Cockroaches are not loners. They hang out together, cooperate, and even make decisions with one another. Just like people, it's clear they suffer when they're isolated.”
Certain cockroach species emit alarm pheromones when startled, thereby warning their comrades when danger is near. And studies have shown that groups of cockroaches are more likely to survive extreme dry spells than loners. For instance, individual roaches are enveloped by a thin layer of water vapor that clings to their shells, but it seems cockroach posses can share this force field and conserve water more efficiently.
The American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) can run four times faster than a cheetah—and they can do it on your ceiling. Many species have marvelous, complex folding wings and are surprisingly agile in the air. Plenty more can swim, and some species can even use a tube at the end of their abdomen as a snorkel. Other cockroaches have hairs that trap air bubbles against their bellies, which is basically the insect equivalent of a scuba tank. Desert species do a breaststroke through the sand.
I realize that this is starting to sound like Bubba explaining all the different ways you can prepare shrimp, but the more I learn about cockroaches, the more I want to learn about cockroaches. We haven’t even talked about the infinite nature of the female’s labyrinthine reproductive tract or the evolutionary link between cockroaches and termites. And what of cockroach cuddling and cockroach crunch-force, the roach races at Roachill Downs and cockroach jetpacks?
Schal estimates that there are probably at least another 5,000 cockroach species out there, just waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, few scientists are devoted to ferreting these majestic creatures out. For some reason, it appears that when graduate students decide what to do with the rest of their lives, most of them would rather specialize in dolphins and grizzly bears and lemurs.
So here's my plea: Scientists of Tomorrow, please go study cockroaches, because I’m not nearly done writing about them. I promise they won't give you gastroenteritis.
*Editor's note, September 1, 2016: An earlier version of this article misstated the percentage of known cockroach species. It is less than 0.5 percent. Additionally, Cryptocercus bores into logs, not the earth.
1. What to Do if There&aposs a Brown Recluse Spider in Your House
Okay, this little guy is one of the bugs in your basement that can cause you some concern. It&aposs one of the few dangerously venomous spiders in North America, and it does live in basements. That doesn&apost mean every little spider in your basement is a brown recluse! The chances of you having this species in your basement is quite small. If you had no spiders at all in your basement, you would very soon be overrun with all kinds of flying and crawling bugs. Spiders eat these pests by the dozens every day.
If you think you have found a brown recluse, take a few moments to make a positive identification. The photo here should help, and there are all kinds of resources online to help you make sure. Brown recluse spiders are in a group known as "huntsmen," which is bad for us because they roam around at night and sometimes wind up in bedclothes, shoes, or clothes left on the floor. Their bite is almost unnoticeable at first, but some bites develop into serious lesions that can get pretty ugly. You can find pictures of brown recluse bites online, but trust me, it&aposs disturbing.
The best method for getting rid of Brown Recluses is:
- Sticky traps: These are the best way to control brown recluses, but they will capture other, harmless bugs in your basement too. Sticky traps catch the spiders as they roam across the basement floor, so you can see how many you&aposre dealing with and kill them at the same time.
By Fwaaldijk (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0],
10 Weird and Fun Facts about Insects
If you are one of those people who loved being outdoors as a child, then you know what fun it is to chase a butterfly, to try and catch dragonflies, or to just look at ants moving in line carrying their food. While our childhood is now gone, the world of insects still remains as awesome as it was then. Every day we encounter hundreds of these insects and dismiss them away as unimportant. But investing a bit more time will reveal what busy and interesting lives these insects lead and the facts related to them. Keep reading to find out 10 weird and fun facts about insects.
1. Dung beetles can navigate only when the Milky Way or clusters of bright stars are visible and are the only insect known to orient itself by use of the galaxy.
Dung beetles are tiny beetles that feed mainly on excrement (dung). When they sniff out a steaming pile of fresh feces, the dung beetles gather around it. The males painstakingly create balls out of the dung and then roll them away from the mound sometimes taking along a female that he had picked up. Then the pair bury the dung which later serves as food for their offspring. The most noticeable aspect of this whole process is that the dung beetle always rolls away the dung ball from the feces mound in a straight line despite all obstacles.
Also, dung beetles can navigate in a straight line even at night and is the only known insect to do so. Scientists have found that dung beetles find their way according to the Milky Way. They also use the lights from star clusters to direct their way. In a single night, a dung beetle can bury dung 250 times heavier than itself. (1, 2)
2. Bees don’t buzz during an eclipse. Bees remain active and noisy right up to the last moments before totality. As totality hits, the bees all go silent in unison.
Image credits: Pixabay
On the eve of the Great American Eclipse of August 21, 2017, ecologist Candace Galen of the University of Missouri conducted an experiment. She, along with a team of researchers and a few hundred elementary school students, decided to find out how honey bees respond during a solar eclipse. Earlier that day, they suspended tiny microphones among flowers to record the buzzing of the bees throughout the eclipse.
During the eclipse, the team found out that the bees continue to buzz up to the last moment before totality. Totality is that stage of a total solar eclipse when the Moon completely blocks all direct sunlight. The team observed that as soon as totality hit, the bees abruptly went silent. Even moments before totality, the bees were actively flying and nosily buzzing around, but they all stopped in unison as totality hit. Professor Galen made the observation that during the eclipse as it gradually got darker, the buzzes lasted longer. This suggests that as the total eclipse was approaching, the bees were taking longer flights and flying more slowly. (source)
3. The blue wings of the morpho dragonfly are surprisingly alive. Scientists found a respiratory system in these wings, the first time this has been seen in any insect.
Image credits: Greg Lasley/Inaturalist.Org via Sciencenews
When insects are born, their wings are alive. As they morph into adults, the cells of wings begin to dry. Only the veins remain alive. The dried-out zones either become clear or are covered in colored patches bordered by the network of veins. Only these veins have a life-support system including nerves, respiratory tubes, etc. The rest of the wing is dried up and dead as a person’s toenail clippings. But entomologist Guillermo Ferreira of Kiel University, Germany was in for a great shock when he saw the scanning-electron-microscope image of the morpho dragonfly’s wings. He saw that the striking blue wings are fully alive.
The morpho dragonfly is the only insect whose wings have been found to be alive. Ferreira found out that the wings had an unusual, tracheal, respiratory system. According to him, the blue color of their wings is probably due to the live wings. The blue pigment is actually not present on the morpho dragonfly wings. The wings look blue due to a living layer of structure that plays tricks with light. (source)
4. The adolescents of the planthopper bug are the first living things discovered to have evolved mechanical gears. They’re located in its legs and enable it to jump at an acceleration of 400 g in 2 ms.
The first person to invent a mechanical gear was a Greek mechanic who built it sometime around 300 BCE. As it turns out, nature had already experimented in this field through a hopping insect, Issus coleoptratus, also known as the “planthopper bug.” It is also the first living creature ever discovered that has an actual gear system in its body. The juveniles of this species have an intricate system of functioning gears in their back legs.
The juvenile Planthopper bugs jump by locking their legs into a leap-ready position. The minuscule pair of gears at the top of their legs interlock their teeth like a zipper. The appendages rotate at the same instant, and, within a blink of an eye, the bug skyrockets away accelerating at the speed of 400 g. The creature is less than one-tenth of an inch long, and, at its top speed, it can reach more than eight miles-per-hour! (1, 2)
5. The ears of the katydid are located on their legs and are quite similar to human ears, complete with the entomological versions of eardrums, ossicles, and cochleas.
The ear is visible as an oval-shaped structure on the front leg of this katydid. Image credits: Andreas Kay/Flickr
Katydids, also known as “bush crickets,” are golden-faced, nocturnal insects with a miniature unicorn horn on their heads. They are noted for their mating calls which are sung in an ultrasound frequency range. Katydids can hear sounds in the frequency ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 hertz. They hear sounds through their two, human-like ears, one on each front leg located just below their knees.
The ears of katydids are less than a millimeter long and quite similar to human ears. Human ears are divided into three main parts: the eardrum, the ossicles, and the cochlea. Katydids have a similar auditory system. They have eardrums which vibrate when a sound wave hits them. The ossicle is a fluid-filled vesicle which transmits the vibrations. The vesicle also acts like a simplified cochlea complete with sensory-hair cells that transmit the vibrations to the brain. (1, 2)
6. A fly called Goniurellia tridens has “ant-mimicking” wings. Those “ants” on its wings aren’t real ants, but markings. When threatened, the fly flashes its wings to give the appearance of ants walking back and forth. The predator gets confused, and the fly flies off.
Image credits: Peter Roosenschoon/Ziyatong via Twitter
Next time you see a fruit fly buzzing around, do not dismiss it. The reason being the fruit fly buzzing around you might be Goniurellia tridens. The Goniurellia tridens is known for the amazing markings on its otherwise transparent wings. Each of its wings has an ant-like insect pattern. The ant markings are perfect with a head, two antennae, six legs, a thorax, and a tapered abdomen.
Anyone looking at the Goniurellia tridens might mistake it for three insects – a fly and two ants – instead of just one. The fly flashes its wings when threatened. It gives the appearance of ants walking back and forth. This confuses the predator and buys the fly enough time to fly off. (1, 2)
7. An Australian moth, Uraba lugens, wears its previous heads as a hat during its caterpillar stage and is known as the “Mad Hatterpillar.”
These visible black caps are actually previous heads. Image credits: Donald Hobern/Flickr, Tony D./bowerbird.org.au
Hats have been used by people since time unknown, and hence they have a lot of history. In nature, there exists a species of caterpillar who wears hats but in a different style. Instead of using foreign material to make hats, the caterpillar keeps a part of its own head as a hat every time it molts. This caterpillar is known as the “gum-leaf skeletonizer,” and more colloquially as the “Mad Hatterpillar.”
The Mad Hatterpillar grows like all other caterpillars by shedding its hard, outer shell. Each time it sheds the shell, it keeps a part of it that once enclosed its head. So, after each molt, the stack of head shells grows eventually becoming a tall, tapered tower. It often uses its head-shell hat as a defense against predators. (source)
8. Cockroaches’ exoskeletons allow them to withstand weights up to 900 times their body weight. Also, they can compress their bodies between 40 and 60% while traversing through tiny spaces.
Image credits: Pixabay
The humble cockroach is well known throughout the world for its ability to make almost all human beings scream out in panic and fear. Usually, when we spot one, we either scurry away in disgust or charge towards it with the intention of smashing it. But not all blows are successful. The cockroaches often manage to survive our blow due to their speed and also due to their insanely strong exoskeleton. According to a paper published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” in small crevices, cockroaches can withstand weights up to 300 times their body weight. In normal situations, they can withstand 900 times their own body weight. That’s why cockroaches often run away unharmed even after being hit by an object.
Scientists also found that cockroaches can navigate through extremely small, confined spaces by compressing their body. While traveling through tiny crevices, their flexible body can compress between 40 and 60%. Their strong exoskeleton protects the soft body inside it allowing the cockroaches to emerge from tiny crevices unscathed. (source)
9. The Oriental hornet, Vespa orientalis, turns solar energy into electricity.
Image credits: KPFC/Wikipedia
Vespa orientalis, or the Oriental hornet, is just like all other hornets except for one special feature. It has the amazing capability to turn solar energy into electricity inside their exoskeleton. The Oriental hornets are most active during the afternoon. They harvest solar energy through their shell. The yellow and brown stripes on their abdomens absorb sun rays. Then, the yellow pigment transforms the solar energy into electricity within the hornet’s body. Scientists are planning to duplicate the hornet’s body structure to harness the power of solar energy.
The oriental hornet not only has the capability to harness solar energy, but it also has a well-developed system to keep its body cool in the sun. Inside the body of the hornet, there exists an interesting heat pump system similar to air conditioners and refrigerators. (1, 2)
10. The veined wing of the clanger cicada can shred bacteria to pieces. Scientists have discovered that their wings have antibacterial “nanopillars” that pull bacterial membranes apart.
Image source: cicadamania.com, Discover Magazine/Youtube
Cicadas are locust-like insects. Scientists have discovered that their wings are natural antibiotics. It is one of the first natural surfaces discovered which can kill bacteria solely through its physical structure. The wings of clanger cicada are covered by “nanopillars” that are like blunt spikes. These nanopillars are on a similar size scale to bacteria.
It is often thought that the nanopillars kill the bacteria by puncturing it, but that’s not what happens. When a bacteria comes in contact with the cicada wings, its cellular membrane sticks to the surface of the nanopillars. The membrane further stretches into the crevices between the nanopillars, and this causes great strain. In the end, the membrane ruptures killing the bacteria. The process is similar to stretching an elastic sheet to such an extent that it becomes thinner and eventually begins to tear. (1, 2)
41 Cockroach Facts and Myths that You Don’t Know
Want to learn more about cockroach facts? Then you are in for a treat! Instead of writing individual posts, I figured compiling a list of myths and facts about cockroaches in one place would be much more beneficial. This post will be updated frequently with new questions from readers and any interesting information we can find out about them over time.
Do cockroaches bite?
Cockroaches are omnivores and theoretically, they do bite everything that’s edible including human, but preferable dead or immobile things. They are not known to be aggressive enough to attack us while we’re awake. However, they might bite us if we do not move around much while we sleep, and that rarely happens. Even if they do, the chances are you won’t actually feel it. Only the larger species could have a chance to bite through our skin, such as American Cockroach. Things might be different if you are living in a heavily infested place.
Do cockroaches sleep?
Most of the cockroach pest species have specific activity rhythms. They tend to “sleep”(or inactive) during the day and start to become active at night to look for food, usually four hours after lights out. That is why we often see them running around during our midnight snack and bathroom runs. However, this does not apply to places with medium to heavy roach infestation, where there are too many of them and they have to come out at other times for food. Even I have seen one or two during the day (rarely).
Top 5 Best Cockroach Killer Products
Do cockroaches fly?
Encountering a flying cockroach is one of the most terrifying experiences for many people, unfortunately, some of the pest species do fly for short distances. I have compiled a list of cockroach types and you can find out which of those have flying capabilities. Though most of them are simply gliding.
Do cockroaches lay eggs?
Yes, they do. Cockroach eggs come in batches called oothecae, which looks a little pill-shaped. Some roach families extrude the egg case (ootheca) and deposit it in a safe place to hatch later. However, the most common indoor pest – German cockroach, will carry the egg case with it until it hatches.
Do cockroaches fart?
As a matter of fact, they are the fartiest animal in Britain. An American cockroach gives off up to 35g of methane a year, which is more than 43 times of their average body weight. American cockroach produces methane gas preferentially when fed with high fiber diet.
Do cockroaches have wings?
Many species have wings but not all have the ability to fly (such as German roach). One example of wingless species is the Madagascar hissing cockroach. They do not have wings at any stages of their life-cycle.
Do cockroaches have emotions? (Or feel pain)
There is no evidence that cockroaches can feel happy, angry or fearful. They simply react to environmental cues with reflexes but we don’t interpret those as emotion. There are not enough research on this matter and more studies need to be conducted for a more definitive answer.
Do cockroaches have eyes?
Roaches do have eyes that rest on top of the head. Unlike human eyes with one lens, they have over 2000 lenses. That gives them an excellent vision to see more than one thing at a time, which is useful for them to view what’s happening around them. One interesting fact is that they can see quite well in green light but can’t see in red light.
Do cockroaches carry disease?
They are scavengers and they eat everything that’s edible including rotting garbage, dead rats, and moldy cheese etc. Ingested bacteria can survive in their digestive system up to months or years. Most of the pest species such as American cockroach and German cockroach may spread a range of diseases to us by contaminating our food with their waste and saliva. Diseases they may carry include salmonella and gastroenteritis (and more).
Do cockroaches have blood?
They do have blood, but it’s not in red color because they don’t use hemoglobin to carry oxygen. Most of them have colorless blood except adult female cockroach, which is occasionally orange in color.
Do stepping on a pregnant cockroach releases her eggs?
Many people believe that stepping on or crushing a pregnant cockroach will immediately release her eggs and cause an infestation. The fact of the matter is that the eggs inside a mother cockroach will die along with her (unless it’s partially stepped on).
Do cockroaches cause allergy?
A cockroach allergy is a real medical condition. Sufferers of the condition have a reaction when the excrement and debris from decomposing cockroaches become airborne. This debris is then breathed in through the bronchial tubes. It can be extremely dangerous for anyone whose living space has been infested with cockroaches. There are also suspected links between high asthma rates and the presence of cockroaches in urban environments.
Do Cockroaches speak?
While it may be true that the majority of cockroaches don’t speak, there is one variety that’s the exception. The Madagascar hissing cockroach holds the distinction of being the only insect that uses its air passageways to produce a sound. This works in much the same way as human vocal cords do. The large size and wingless nature of this variety of cockroach is the reason why it is often used as a token insect in movies.
Do they only live in dirty homes?
Being a neat freak won’t automatically protect you from cockroaches invading your home. The fact is that a colony of roaches can easily form in a clean home. Their ability to thrive in a space all comes down to finding a food source.
Do cold temperatures kill cockroaches?
They do not survive well in extreme hot or cold temperatures. They do have physiological mechanisms that allow them to survive the cold if the temperatures are gradually lowered. However, If you put an infested appliances at room temperature into the freezer, they will most likely be dead within half an hour because they simply can’t adapt that quickly. This method can be used to kill their egg cases too, but it will take a prolonged exposure to cold temperatures (several hours or more) for the job to be done.
Can a cockroach live without its head?
It could potentially live up to one month without its head, provided that it’s not infected by bacterium, virus or get eaten by predators. One of the reasons is that it does not require the brain to control the breathing process at all. A cockroach breaths through spiracles, which can be found in each segment of the body. The spiracles then deliver air to each body cell through tracheae (a set of tubes).
Aside from that, cockroach doesn’t have blood pressure like we do, so cutting off its head doesn’t make it bleed to death, and their necks would seal off just by clotting. A cockroach doesn’t need much food to survive and a meal they had one day would be enough for them to last for weeks since it’s pretty much doing nothing without its head. Another fun fact, a decapitated roach head can wave its antennae for several hours, and last even longer if given nutrients and refrigerated.
Can roaches survive a nuclear explosion?
If a lethal dose is 800 rems (unit of radiation dosage) for human, then roaches could tolerate up to 125 times of rems. Insect researchers have found that the lethal dose for American cockroach is 67,500 rems and German cockroach is between 90,000 to 105,000 rems. Of course, if the nuclear explosion was powerful enough then not even these ancient critters could survive, but they do have favorable odds compared to us!
Can they get stuck in your ear?
Cockroaches have been known to crawl inside the ears of children and adults while they sleep. The problem is that cockroaches do not have the ability to move backward. This means that they have no way of crawling out of an ear canal once they’ve gotten inside. Once they are lodged inside an ear, they can cause ear pain and infection before being removed by a physician.
What do cockroaches eat?
Roaches eat virtually everything as long as it’s organic (no plastic or steel). They do have a priority list but they aren’t too picky. Sweets, starches and animal proteins are their favorite food. A wide range of other food sources includes dead animals, rotting garbage, human waste, soap, plants, book bindings, human hair, and fingernails etc.
What does a cockroach look like?
There are several characteristics you should look for when identifying a cockroach. It is a six-legged creature with an oval-shaped, flat and low-lying body. It also has a long antenna, which makes it very easy to differentiate from other insects. Depends on the species, some are fast-moving with wings and some are not. As for baby cockroach (Nymphs), they are just smaller and not fully developed (e.g. baby German cockroach doesn’t have wings).
What does a cockroach nest look like?
You certainly wouldn’t want to see this in your home because it would be an indication of a heavy infestation. Basically, it’s just a spot where all of them hanging out together. They don’t have a queen or hive like the bees.
Another interesting fact – some roaches such as the German cockroach, produces aggregation pheromone that attracts other roaches to the area. The more roaches live in a habitat, the more attractive it becomes to others.
What do cockroach droppings look like?
They look like black ground coffee, slightly larger than grains of sand and are easy to spot. Some larger roaches would leave behind barrel-shaped feces. Mice droppings usually have a twist at the end so this is one way to differentiate them.
What is the lifespan of a cockroach?
Lifespan may vary depends on species. They could live up to a few months or years. Each species has a different life expectancy.
What is the scientific name of cockroach?
The scientific name of cockroach is “Blattaria”.
Why do cockroaches die on their backs?
It’s a common misconception. They do not always die this way in the natural world. They often flipped over only when killed by insecticides. This is largely due to the nerve poisons that disrupt the neurotransmitter and cause muscular spasms. They simply can’t flip back without muscular coordination and eventually die on their backs. Another fun fact is that roaches are not used to living on a polished floor or any slippery surfaces. They might have trouble to re-position themselves if they fell upside down on a polished floor without anything to grab ahold with its legs.
Why do cockroaches come towards you?
Many people have noticed that cockroaches will actually run towards humans instead of fleeing. This action actually has little to do with the roach wanting to attack you or be aggressive. The reality is that they can’t even see you. However, a roach is likely to move in a direction that takes them away from air currents. They will actually try to get away from any wind or air they feel at their backs. This likely explains why they seem to be advancing towards humans when they’re exposed to air.
Cockroaches Have Been around since the Dinosaur Age
Those same cockroaches that roam high-rise apartments in Manhattan have been on the planet since the days when dinosaurs ruled the land. Cockroaches are known to be hearty and resistant to environmental adversity. It is clear to see that whatever wiped out the dinosaurs didn’t slow down cockroaches.
Cockroaches Can Survive a Hunger Strike
A cockroach can actually go up to a full month without any food. This is one of the reasons why these insects are so good at remaining out of sight. They can also go about two weeks without any water.
They Hate Light
We have an image in our heads of cockroaches scurrying into the shadows as soon as a light is placed on them. The truth is that cockroaches don’t actually have an aversion to light. The reason they scurry is that the light signals to them that their hiding spot has been uncovered by humans. In fact, forest cockroaches at Mount Kinabalu Sabah in Malaysia have been observed going towards lights. Cockroaches in the wild have not yet learned to associate light with human attempts to eradicate them with sprays and other anti-pest methods.
They Don’t Need Air
While cockroaches do technically need air to live, they can go quite a while without taking a breath. These insects can actually hold their breath for 40 minutes at a time. This makes them excellent at hiding in unusual spaces. A roach can even hold its breath underwater to prevent drowning.
Roaches Are Great Runners
If there was an insect Olympics, cockroaches would almost certainly come in first in the spiriting competition. Cockroaches can run at speeds of up to three miles per hour. Keep that in mind the next time you’re trying to get away from one!
They Are Diverse
There isn’t just one type of cockroach. While many people think of the classic black cockroaches that roam the halls and walls of homes and apartment buildings, this particular variety only accounts for a very small portion of the entire group. There are actually 4,000 different living species of cockroaches scattered throughout the world. These varied species cover a wide variety of sizes, colors, and habits. There are roaches in places like Australia that can grow as large as a songbird. Of course, scientists have so far only discovered a fraction of the millions of species of insects that actually exist on our planet. There is a good chance that we aren’t even close to discovering and identifying every type of cockroach out there.
They Only Come Out at Night
A significant number of cockroaches are actually nocturnal. However, many of the thousands of varieties out there are not exclusively nocturnal. Forest cockroaches, for instance, are active during the day. The average cockroach that has infested a home is only active for about four hours each night. You are quite likely to see cockroaches scurrying around your home during the daylight hours.
They Like to Cuddle
Cuddling may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the hard, foreboding bodies of roaches. However, these insects enjoy the feeling of having something solid come in contact with their bodies. They especially enjoy being surrounded on all sides. This is why they often seek out the comfort of cracks and crevices in walls and other structures.
Cockroaches Don’t Benefit Humans
There is a good chance that cockroaches may have played an important role in helping early humans enjoy safe places to sleep at night. Scientists know that cockroaches that dwell in caves around the world actually remove bat dung from walls and ceilings. It is believed that this behavior actually benefited our ancient ancestors because it allowed them to dwell in caves without the danger of being surrounded by toxic bat droppings.
They Can Be Trained Like Dogs
Fido isn’t the only one who can do tricks anymore! Roaches can actually be trained by humans to react to stimuli. Scientists have performed studies that introduced the scent of peppermint or vanilla before giving roaches sweet treats. It was observed that over time cockroaches would drool whenever their antennas detected those scents.
They’re Good for the Planet
Many scientists consider cockroaches to be Mother Nature’s recyclers. Their habit of eating leaves, branches and other vegetation helps to return plant matter back into the soil. In addition, cockroaches also serve as food for birds, lizards, and larger insects out in the wild.
Envelope Glue Is Covered in Roach Eggs
This one falls under the topic of an urban legend. Somewhere along the way, it became commonly believed that the glue on envelopes attracts cockroaches. The stories began to spread that these strips of glue were infested with microscopic cockroach eggs that would attach to your tongue and hatch inside your mouth if you licked an envelope. While roaches do like to eat glue if it’s available, there is actually no proof that envelope glue is any more likely to attract the insects that any other object in a home or office. What’s more, the stomach-turning tales about friends, family members, acquaintances or random postal workers having cockroach eggs hatch in their mouths after licking envelopes are unsubstantiated.
They Don’t Live Long in Dry Spaces
Cockroaches thrive in moist environments. They don’t do as well in dry ones. Many cockroaches die when the home or building they’ve made a home in becomes overly dry because of seasonal changes or heaters.
They’re Just Pests
The cockroaches that pop up in our homes only represent a very small percentage of the total cockroach population in the world. Scientists actually only categorize about 1 percent of the world’s total cockroach population as pests. The rest are seen as useful insects that populate everything from dense forests to deserts in the most exotic portions of the world.
They’re a Part of History
When you’ve been around for a few million years, you’re bound to make your way into some books. Cockroaches have been mentioned in literary works that date back to ancient times. The ancient Egyptian “Book of the Dead” contains a spell for keeping cockroaches far away. In his “Natural History,” Pliny the Elder recommends crushing the vilified insects at every chance. These works prove that humans have had an adversarial nature with roaches that dates back at least thousands of years.
Would you like to know more myths and facts about cockroaches? Contact me today and let me know if I missed out anything interesting that isn’t included in this list. I’ll do my best to find out the answers for you. Other than that, make sure to check out our main guide if you are looking to get rid of roaches in your home, especially the bad ones!
Identifying Bugs That Look Like Silverfish
When dealing with insects, it’s always important to know exactly what type of problem you have on your hands. Solutions and products that work on one type of insect are often ineffective on others, even if they are a part of the same overall family group.
Additionally, lookalike insects can often have drastically different (or no) effects on your home, property, and health. The same goes for silverfish and insects that look like silverfish as well.
Silverfish grow without changing their body structure (i.e. without metamorphosing). They reproduce relatively slowly and live longer than most other insects. While they have a relatively unique body structure, they can still be mistaken for some other insects. That’s why, in this article, we’ll cover exactly what silverfish look like and go over some of the insects that look similar to silverfish.
What do silverfish look like?
They have two long antennae on their heads as well as three slender bristles that trail out behind them. Their tapered, carrot-like bodies are covered with shiny, silvery scales. It’s this coloring, in combination with their scales, that has earned them their common name: silverfish.
Marek R. Swadzba/Shutterstock.com
Silverfish are wingless but quite fast-footed. Adult silverfish can range from 0.4 in. (1 cm) up to 0.75 in. (2 cm) in length. Young silverfish nymphs are small, pale, fat, and lack scales. They’ll go through several molt stages to reach adulthood, continuing to molt regularly throughout their lives. After the fourth molting (about 12 days after they hatch), they’ll grow scales and start to look more like adults. Silverfish eggs themselves are about 0.04 in. (0.1 cm) long.
Silverfish prefer warm, shady, and moist environments with bountiful food nearby. They will travel long distances for food if need be, though. They are also strictly nocturnal, which is why we rarely see them even when they’ve already settled in our homes.
Silverfish Lookalikes: The Most Common Insects Mistaken for Silverfish
As unique as silverfish are, there are still silverfish lookalikes out there. These are often mistaken for their silver-colored cousins. The most common bugs that look like silverfish are firebrats, bristletails, earwigs, centipedes, and woodlice. So, if you want to be certain of what you’re dealing with, here’s a quick breakdown of all the common bugs that resemble silverfish.
Firebrats, or Thermobia domestica, are members of the same insect order as silverfish: Zygentoma. As a result, they’re quite similar to silverfish. They are also flattened, wingless insects that are fast on their feet. Firebrats share similar mating and feeding habits and are also nocturnal.
In terms of their appearance, firebrats are darker in color than silverfish and are brown rather than silver. You will find them in drier habitats. They prefer warmer temperatures than their cousins, so they are often found near furnaces or boilers.
Bruce Marlin/Wikimedia Commons
Bristletail is the common name for insects of the order Archaeognatha (or Microcoryphia). Zygentoma, which contains both silverfish and firebrats, is the sister order to Archaeognatha. One of the most common silverfish lookalikes in this order is the jumping bristletail.
Like silverfish, jumping bristletails lack wings and have scales, thin bristles, and long antennae. They are round (rather than flat), gray (rather than silver), and vary in size (from 0.2–0.8 in./5–20 mm). Most bristletails, including the jumping bristletails, are outdoor insects. This means that they will rarely come close to your home or property as there’s nothing of interest for them there.
Unlike silverfish, bristletails can jump as far as 4 in. (10 cm) when disturbed. So, if you scare a bug that you think might be a silverfish and it jumps instead of scurrying away, it’s probably a bristletail.
Even though it is a bit less silverfish-like, an earwig can also be mistaken for a silverfish by the untrained eye. It’s a very different insect, though. Instead of three distinctive bristles trailing behind them, earwigs have two menacing-looking pincers. They’re also primarily dark brown with reddish heads and pale legs. Their most significant commonality with silverfish is that they are both about 0.5 in. (1.2 cm) long.
Earwigs are mostly found outdoors but sometimes venture inside. Even though they may look unpleasant, they’re harmless to humans. You may have heard someone say that earwigs crawl into people’s ears while they sleep, but this is simply not true.
Earwigs feed on live and dead plants in your garden and may sometimes feed on live or dead insects. They will sometimes enter homes in the summer months.
Like the earwig, centipedes have a lot of physical differences when compared to silverfish. You’ll also usually see them from far away. At a greater distance, it’s easier to mistake them for silverfish. One complicating factor is that both silverfish and a lot of centipedes are rather quick on their feet and hide when you try to approach them.
Still, from up close, centipedes are quite easy to tell from silverfish since they have at least 30 legs, if not more. It’s also worth mentioning that centipedes actually like to eat pests such as silverfish, roaches, and ants.
A woodlouse (sometimes booklice), can be mistaken for silverfish thanks to the same grey coloring that some species have. They do have a different body shape, so when compared side by side, you can clearly tell which is which.
A lot of insects can be mistaken for silverfish from afar. But, these ancient insects do have many distinctive characteristics that make them stand out when viewed up close. Only firebrats and jumping bristletails can really be mistaken for silverfish. But, if you examine them carefully, the common types of indoor silverfish are easy to identify.
Know Your Enemy: CockroachesFew living things gross people out like the humble cockroach. But are they actually harmful? (Image courtesy of Clemson University-USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org)
Most people think cockroaches are disgusting. And if you’ve ever turned on a kitchen light, to find them skittering for dark corners, you probably agree (reference: my first apartment). But of the thousands of species out there, only a few can be considered pests.
There are well over 4,000 described (i.e., named) species of cockroach around the world, with some experts estimating that there are another 5,000 species that have yet to be classified by taxonomists. Their classification is actually a point of contention – and I won’t take a position on which suborder they’re in, or how many families they consist of.
An estimated 60 to 70 species can be found in the continental United States (depending on who you ask), but most people are likely to interact with no more than a dozen of them – depending on where you live.
For example, if you live in a suburban home , near trees or areas with a lot of mulch, you may see the occasional “woods cockroach” – any of several species in the genus Parcoblatta that live in wooded areas and eat organic matter. Woods roaches are native to the Americas, tend to be fairly large (over one inch in length), and should not be a problem for homeowners.
While they may come into your house (e.g., inadvertently hitching a ride on some firewood, or entering through soffit vents or other openings), they do not want to be there. And (good news!) they have not been known to reproduce indoors. So, if you see one, don’t freak out. Woods roaches are actually very beneficial, consuming decaying matter in the leaf litter around trees and serving as a significant food source for other animals (including the red-cockaded woodpecker).
Woods roaches are different from wood-feeding cockroaches, which are in the genus Cryptocercus. Wood-feeding roaches are fairly uncommon, and are found only in the Appalachian region (including the mountains of North Carolina). Wood-feeding roaches are similar to termites: they eat wood, form “families” with a pair of adults that rears broods of young, and build galleries in decaying wood. Interesting, right? Not creepy at all.
But when most people think of roaches, they aren’t thinking of these wild species. They’re thinking of pests found in urban settings. There are four or five of these species in the U.S., of which the German cockroach (Blattella germanica) is most common.
German roaches are relatively small, rarely reaching more than half an inch in length. And they can’t fly, so are often introduced into new places by humans – catching a ride in your groceries, cardboard boxes, etc. But once they’re in, they can disperse rapidly. An infestation in one apartment can quickly spread throughout the building.
To a German roach, humans are a moveable feast. They’ll eat almost any organic material. The crumbs in your cabinet, bits of food that slip down the crack by your stove, your garbage can – they’re all smorgasbords to germanica.
German roaches have a unique reproductive strategy among cockroaches. After mating, a female makes an egg case containing approximately 40 eggs. The case remains attached to the rear of the female’s abdomen, where the eggs incubate for approximately three weeks before live young emerge. These nymphs are tiny – no more than 2 millimeters long – but begin foraging immediately.
The nymphs do not go through a pupal stage, but molt six times over the course of around 40 days before becoming adults. Once they reach the adult stage, they have wings (even though they can’t fly) and are capable of reproducing.
Because adults can live for up to a year, reproduce repeatedly and can produce a new generation every 60 to 70 days, the introduction of a single fertilized female can create an infestation of thousands of roaches fairly quickly – a population of millions over the course of a year.
But while roaches do gross people out, there is little understanding of their role as a vector of disease. We know they carry various pathogens (such as enterococci), but there has been little or no epidemiological study done that links roaches to human disease.
That said, cockroaches can exacerbate allergies and asthma. Proteins in the bodies of cockroaches are what trigger allergic reactions, and those proteins can attach to dust particles and become airborne when roach feces dry up or when a cockroach dies and its body breaks down. This can be a serious problem in areas with large infestations, where children become sensitized to these allergens.
And roaches also contribute to indirect health effects stemming from the overuse of pesticides. So-called “bug bombs,” for example, are not particularly effective – but can expose people to harmful amounts of insecticide. They aren’t very effective because: A) they do not do a very good job of reaching into the nooks and crannies where roaches hide and B) roaches have become highly resistant to these pesticides.
So, how can you effectively deal with a cockroach problem? Your best bet is an integrated approach:
- Improve sanitary conditions to reduce the amount of food available to roaches.
- Reduce clutter, so there are fewer places for roaches to hide and reproduce.
- Physically change your environment to limit the ways a roach can access your home. E.g., use caulk to block cracks around electrical outlets and eliminate water leaks that give roaches access to the moisture they need.
- Use pesticide dusts (e.g., boric acid or diatomaceous earth) selectively, in hard-to-reach areas, such as behind cabinets or under the sink.
- Place insecticide baits in areas where you see cockroaches – but where children and pets cannot reach them. E.g., behind the refrigerator.
This is a lot of information, but we haven’t even touched on other pest species of roach, such as the American cockroach. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll pull together another post on them.
Note: Many thanks to Dr. Coby Schal, Blanton J. Whitmire Distinguished Professor of Entomology at NC State, for taking the time to talk to me about cockroaches. Any errors in the above post are mine alone.